REVIEW: VARATHRON – “Patriarchs of Evil”
The Hellenic keepers of the deep dark canyon, striking swiftly and true, are back to show the world why Varathron is conceived as a synonym for respectable, valiant and timeless black metal. Shadowing the great titans Rotting Christ and Septicflesh, for instance, the Greeks have always stayed on course and have been slaying the hordes of light since 1988, when Stefan Necroabyssious (vocals), alongside legendary bassist Mutilator (one of Rotting Christ’s founding members) joined arms against the traditional way of playing metal; not long after that, in 1993, both gave birth to ‘His Majesty at the Swamp’, one of Greece’s most recognizable and defining albums of all time.
Mutilator is no more, parting ways shortly after that to give full attention to Rotting Christ, but Stefan kept the black flame of Varathron burning to this date, when he and his fellow servants of hell rise from the abyss once again and deliver ‘Patriarchs of Evil’, sixth studio album by the band.
Like its predecessors not long before, the album casts in stone commandments of evil, occultism, darkness and cataclysmic legends, all while maintaining Varathron’s tried and true songwriting style. “Tenebrous” is the band slowly preparing their victims to the satanic sacrifice, shifting quickly and competently from slow to mid-tempo, with riffs that flirt with traditional heavy metal. As the song progresses, so does the wary listener becomes more and more terrified with the gloomy atmosphere.
“Into the Absurd” is the raw rage taking form and showing the Greek’s occult side. The thrashier leads and aggressive verses ally with traditional Hellenic keyboard elements, paving the way to the dark lord himself. When it’s time, “Luciferian Mystical Awakening” announces the satanic rise from ashes, mystically awakened by haunting choirs, dystopic ceremonial riffs by Achilleas C. and Sotiris, and the rhythmic war drums played by Haris. Lucifer has taken charge and will conquer what has been taken from him.
With the planets in place, the “Saturnian Sect” emanates with strong, powerful energy. The astrological feature is well illustrated by repetitive and melodic riffs, while Stefan’s vocal performance is at its peak. The aggressiveness of his speech tells the prophecy of the planets, which deliver dark and impure beams of energy to the doomed Earth.
With all hope lost, we are presented with the “Remnants of the Dark Testament”, the sinful communion of the absurd. The acoustic guitar intro emanates with sorrowful melody, and the background choirs, provided as a chant to the lost by the patriarchs of evil themselves, define the coming of the apocalypse. Slow, steady, the instrumental is merely the background for the reading of the dark testament, shown to all the children of Lucifer.
Again relying on traditional heavy elements, this time around with a doom-ish atmosphere, “Hellwitch (Witches Gathering)” is the weaker portion of the record, but an entertaining one, still. While the witches gather in their lair to perform the mystic ritual of the coven, solos are presented alongside timid keyboard lines, which then turn into a mix of a powerful traditional black metal track and traces of denser parts.
“Orgasmic Nightmares of the Arch Desecrator” is exactly what the name suggests. Chaotic, commanding and opulent, the track represents the ambiguity of pleasure through suffering. The constant double-pedals and the crunchy riffs help build the visceral aura that surrounds the music; another great display of the Greeks’ powers.
Closing the album is “Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum)”, the most atmospheric and epic piece of the album, is the omega, the ending to all. The dweller devours everything in its path, from organic to magical, from light to darkness. Again, the combo guitar-keyboard provides great support instrumental-wise, with the keyboards being more prominent and taking a more leading role this time; the perfect satanic ending.
There are three factors that make ‘Patriarchs of Evil’ a killer album: the atmosphere is spot-on with the lyrics and story, the guitar work is extremely good, rarely being recycled, and Stefan’s performance – nothing short of theatrical – is absolutely marvelous. The rhythm section is solid as a rock, the riffs are sexy as hell and the lyrics are carefully crafted (a rarity these days). To those who have been following Varathron since the early days, the album will deliver the promise of giving you an awakening smell of the old era of black metal. Highly recommended.